Mitch Dransfield previews the last Magic Round match with the Rabbitohs playing the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
South Sydney Rabbitohs
South Sydney was tasked with a clash that saw both their previous coaches come head-to-head for the first time since moving. The Rabbitohs continued with their stellar form, beating the Broncos 38-6 at home after leading 24-0 at half time.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys returned home to take on the Gold Coast Titans, with both sides having two wins from their opening seven games. North Queensland withstood a flurry of pressure late by the Titans after leading 16-4 at the break. Holding on to their earlier lead, the home side scored two late tries to win 28-14.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
South Sydney keep their side unchanged that has won four straight moving into this clash.
Rabbitohs squad: 1. Alex Johnston 2. Corey Allen 3. Kyle Turner 4. Dane Gagai 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. George Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Sam Burgess 13. Cameron Murray 14. Tevita Tatola 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Ethan Lowe 17. Liam Knight 18. Jacob Gagan 19. Connor Tracey 20. Dean Britt 21. Mawene Hiroti
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys will be without Josh McGuire, who suffered an ankle injury over the weekend and has been replaced by Coen Hess. Kyle Feldt returns, pushing Justin O’Neill to the centres. John Asiata remains at five-eighth.
Cowboys squad: 1. Jordan Kahu 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Enari Tuala 5. Ben Hampton 6. John Asiata 7. Michael Morgan 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Mitchell Dunn 16. Scott Bolton 17. Francis Molo 18. Corey Jensen 19. Tom Opacic 20. Shane Wright 21. Jake Clifford
HEAD TO HEAD
These two clubs have featured in outstanding games in their last two meetings – both matches won by the Rabbitohs by a field goal. With South Sydney flying this year against a Cowboys side still struggling to make an impact, it will be hard for the Queensland side to win.
This encounter between South Sydney and North Queensland will be full throttle action as it closes the first ever NRL Magic Round. The Rabbitohs are looking for five straight wins while the Cowboys are looking for their third in what has been a poor start to their 2019 season. The key matchup is the battle through the middle with the locks: representative and Dally M winner Jason Taumalolo in his second game back from injury up against one of the hottest young forwards this year in Cameron Murray.
Murray has been a standout in the forwards. His minutes have increased to 60 minutes each match in the middle with the lock already averaging over 135 run metres a game while producing four post-contact metres each hit up. This fit young forward will only get better as he gets more matches under his belt; contributing well to Wayne Bennett’s forwards he will have a task of trying to contain Taumalolo’s efforts which will be one of his hardest assignments to date.
Cowboys golden boy Taumalolo returned in style last round having missed six matches, but it was like he had never left. The lock forward’s efforts to North Queensland’s cause are massive; he gets them on the front foot, drawing many defenders or breaking through the line to have the opposition retreating to stop the following attacking play. Though the sample size is not much Taumalolo has had 15 hit ups per match with 202 post-contact metres which saw him ravaging the sides he played against; no doubt the lock will be out to bruise and batter a large Souths pack while showing Murray the pinnacle of the position in his game.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 12th May
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Referee: Ashley Klein
WHO WILL WIN?
It’s a really tough matchup to pick with a neutral ground at Suncorp. The Cowboys have built a bit of momentum these past few weeks and have gained in confidence, which could be a factor in an upset. The Rabbitohs have been a well-oiled machine this season with only the one defeat in Golden Point against Manly. They have recaptured some impressive form in the last two games, with their goal line defence being impossible to crack while their known attacking power is still hurting their opponents. This has the makings of another tight finish with it being the last game of the Magic Round. The edges of the Cowboys have struggled to prevent points being scored and with Souths’ potency in attack through Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds, it’s hard not to see them piling on the points through their channels.
Prediction: South Sydney by 18